Kidney Transplant: Before Your Surgery

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What is a kidney transplant?

Kidney transplant

A kidney transplant is surgery to give you a healthy kidney from another person. The new kidney may come from someone you know. Or it may come from a stranger or a person who has died.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a cut in your lower belly. This cut is called an incision. The doctor places the donated kidney in your lower belly. Your own kidneys are not taken out unless they are causing problems. The doctor then connects the blood vessels of the new kidney to your blood vessels. He or she also connects the ureter of the new kidney to your bladder. (A ureter is the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.) Then the doctor closes the incision with stitches or staples. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

You need only one healthy kidney to live. The new kidney can do the work that your own kidneys cannot. It will remove waste from your blood. And it will balance your body's fluids and chemicals. Your new kidney may start to work very soon after surgery. Or it may not start to work well for a few weeks. If your kidney does not start to work right away, you will need to have dialysis until the new kidney is able to take over.

You will probably spend 5 to 10 days in the hospital. The doctor will remove the stitches or staples about 1 to 3 weeks after surgery.

Most people need to take about 4 weeks off from work. But it depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You may get an epidural catheter. This is a tiny tube that delivers pain medicine directly into the area in your back around your spinal cord. It will prevent pain after surgery.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 1½ to 3 hours.
  • You may have a tube coming out of your belly to drain fluids for a few days.
  • You may have a thin, plastic tube in your nose that goes down the back of your throat into your stomach to drain stomach juices. It is usually removed within a few days after surgery.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: August 14, 2016